Being an expat can sometimes be compared as living life on speed. Because this life is a “temporary” one, we find that we forge relationships in weeks and months instead of over the course of years. Mainly because we just don’t have the time to spend building friendships in a traditional sense. You either put yourself out there or you don’t and if you do, you have to understand that things are constantly changing and evolving. Sometimes this can be a good thing (if you find certain people are particular annoying you may not be so sad to know that they are only here for a year) and like anything else it can be a bad thing (when you know your closest friends are leaving).
You either click or you don’t. If you don’t, you move on. If you do, suddenly you have a whole new group of friends that a matter of weeks ago didn’t exist. As I’ve said before, before we moved to Barcelona, I debated how much I wanted to put myself out there – did I want to invest myself in others since we were here for a such a temporary timeframe? I have no regrets that I’ve done this. And I assume Josh and Liam feel the same. Aidan, well, Aidan as I mentioned in my last entry is suddenly becoming more aware of our constantly evolving lifestyle and he’s not super thrilled with it, even stating that he no longer wants friends because then they can’t leave.
That’s not to say that I blame him. As a matter of fact this week, it really hit me that things are changing. We are in the thick of several very close friends (both Aidan and I) that are moving over the course of the next 6 or so weeks if they hadn’t left already at the end of the school year. And this week, even though I had the kids in camp and it was a social freebie for me to go out and about to enjoy my last bits of time with some of those friends, all I wanted to do was curl into a ball and push them away. Because if I don’t invest myself, I won’t get hurt. I know this isn’t realistic, it’s a defense mechanism. Kind of like my view in the lean-to on Mount Washington – if I am hunkered down in the bottom of my sleeping bag in the far corner of the lean-to, the bear will eat the others first and stay away from me – out of sight, out of mind and in this case, first in, first out. If I hide away, others can’t hurt me by leaving.
But I can’t live my life like that. And I know I can’t. And neither can Aidan. Our landscape here has changed over the last few years but it’s changed very slowly in expat terms. Our primary friends have stayed. The kids have had friends at school that have left but few that they were especially close with. I’ve had friends that have left but as an adult, I have other outlets in which to stay in touch… and I think because I’ve had one friend here and there leave, the impact hasn’t been so bad. But now, now suddenly everything is changing. Now it is a big chunk of our core group of friends that are going.
I knew before we decided to extend for our second time that this was going to happen. My friends already had their departure dates. And yet, I made the decision (of course along with Josh) that I was ok to stay despite this. I think it’s because I started here with nothing. And I survived. And I will continue to survive and thrive because now I have a base here and while it is ever evolving, I’m not starting over again. It doesn’t mean that it won’t be difficult because it will be. And I expect to have some rough patches ahead, but in the long run, I know we will be fine and we will learn from the experiences. It will make us more flexible; it will teach us the value of friendship no matter where they have come from or where they are going. It will also teach us to go outside our comfort zone to make friends in other ways…
As I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries, Aidan and I are both losing some of our closest friends here. We’ll remain friends with them for sure, but they will no longer be a part of our daily lives unfortunately. And what we have to do is to learn to adjust to this constant change that is a part of this lifestyle. One way for us to do that is to make friends that are more local – this means kids and parents at the school and outside of school. The challenge with that is finding friends that speak at least a little English so that between our Spanish and English we can get our points across; I don’t think either of us really care if the English is fluent, it really doesn’t matter as long as we can find ways between both languages to understand each other. Both Aidan and I are making progress there and I’m so glad we have because we’ve met some really wonderful people that have made an impact in our lives.
I also think that this evolution of our lives here presents us with a challenge in a way. Not so much a challenge on how to make more friends. I think that will happen in an organic way when we are least expecting it. But now we have to challenge ourselves to accept change and to try to embrace it. And to still allow ourselves to open up to the world despite the risks when they have to leave. To look at the positives of change and that while we might not like it, it can be a good, healthy thing in the long run. Life is full of change and we can let the change bring us down or we can look at it as a way to improve our lives, to make them fuller, to meet more people, to experience new things and to truly live this life here in Barcelona to it’s full extent. And so I say to Aidan – let’s put ourselves out there, let’s be happy, yes, things are going to change but they will change no matter where we live, so let’s just live for today and enjoy what life brings to us.